JGSLA 2010: New programs, classes, workshops!

In addition to lectures, JGSLA 2010 will offer programs on maps, roots travel, films and filmmakers, classes and crafts.

“This year in LA” is the 2010 mantra for Jewish genealogists around the world.

Don’t miss the early registration discount for the 30th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, July 11-16, in Los Angeles. Discounts end April 30, don’t miss out. Go to JGSLA 2010 and register today.

Two fascinating speakers have been added to the program, and see further down for even more additions to the program.

Holocaust

USC Shoah Foundation Institute executive director Dr. Stephen Smith will speak on Wednesday evening, July 14.

He was founding director of The UK Holocaust Centre, the UK’s first dedicated Holocaust memorial and education center. For this work, he was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.). Additionally, Smith co-founded the Aegis Trust, withe the goal of prevention of crimes against humanity and genocide. He chairs the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, which organizes the UK national Holocaust commemoration.

A dynamic speaker, he is dedicated to bringing the Shoah Foundation’s survivor testimonies into the 21st century by making them accessible to a worldwide audience. His talk will address this topic.  The conference resource room will offer streaming Shoah Foundation survivor testimonies daily during the conference, beginning on Sunday, July 11, at 10am.

Sephardim

Professor Delores Sloane will discuss her new book, “The Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal: Survival of an Imperiled Culture in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries,” a storyteller’s account of what happened to the expelled Iberian Jews who built new lives in exile after leaving what had been their home for 1,500 years.

Sloan believes that history is best understood through the experiences of those who lived it.

In 1996, she traveled through Spain and Portugal for five weeks, by train, bus and by foot, looking for footprints left by the remarkable Jews who had created a golden age of learning and discovery.

Her new book offers a compelling portrait of Sephardic Jews, who created a Golden Age on the Iberian Peninsula under Moslem rule for nearly seven centuries, and continued to advance science, medicine, political economy, government and the arts under Christian rule that followed. See the link above for more information.

Here’s even more to absorb:

Maps and more

Ukraine and Galicia are on the menu with the famous Brian Lenius speaking on cadastral maps and landowner records; Alexander Dunai (from Lviv) on maps in the Ternopil (Tarnopol) archives; and Alexander Denysenko (from Lviv), on roots travel. Dunai and Seattle’s Sol Sylvan will present how you can plan the trip of a lifetime. Other experts will be able to discuss roots travel to Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Latvia and Lithuania.

Films

Filmmaker, researcher and travel planner Michael Masterovoy of Moscow is flying in to  speak at the Belarus SIG luncheon (don’t forget to sign up for this added event!). He’ll speak about his recent trip to several Belarus towns, including Vitebsk, home to Movsha Shagal (AKA Marc Chagall).

He has created documentary and campaign videos for North American Jewish organizations and the film festival will screen several of his films, including “Brailov: A Town Without Jews.”

In about two weeks, the complete Film Festival schedule will be online.

Arts & Crafts, Workshops, Classes

Frequent conference-goers know we all need breaks from lectures.

Some classes and workshops:

  • Sunday, Lil Blume will offer a two-part workshop on “Writing Family Stories and Memoirs.”
  • Monday-Thursday: Lynn Saul – “Creating and Retelling Your Family’s Stories: A Participatory Writing Workshop;” Mike Karsen – “How to Create Your Family History;” and Marlis Humphrey – “I Couldn’t Put it Down! New Ways to Publish Family History.”

Crafts:

  • A Tallit–making class will cover the history of the Jewish prayer shawl, the Hebrew prayer for the atarah (or collar), the aleph bet chart with various Hebrew fonts, images to stitch to decorate the tallit, how to tie tzitzit (corner fringes), and sha’a’tnez. (prohibition of using two different fibres in the same textile).
  • “How to Create a Genealogical Quilt” using ancestral photographs as the artwork.
  • “Pomegranate Jewish Papercut” session to learn the art of Jewish paper cutting, using scissors. References to Jewish paper cutting date from 14th century and it became an important folk art among both Ashkenazim and Sephardim in the 17th-18th centuries. Each participant will have a papercut that they can display at home. There’s a $10 kit fee for the project materials.

Holocaust, Sephardim, maps, roots travel, writing, films and filmmakers, along with arts and crafts! No matter your specific interests, there will be something – and lots of somethings – for you.

Tracing the Tribe looks forward to greeting you in Los Angeles.

Holocaust: Wisconsin survivors speak

The Wisconsin Historical Society has posted interviews with Holocaust survivors who settled in that state.

Of some 140,000 survivors who came to the US, more than 1,000 settled in Wisconsin.

Six million European Jews were systematically murdered by the Nazis and their allies during the 1930s and 1940s. As Nazi tyranny spread, millions of other people were also killed by the Third Reich.

Wisconsin Historical Society archivists interviewed 22 Holocaust survivors and two American witnesses between 1974 and 1981. These oral histories are now available digitally and in their entirety for the first time, uncensored and unfiltered.

The collection includes 156 hours of audio and 3,400 transcribed pages. Each interview is on a testimony page with a biography, summary of the interview, audio players for each tape side and download options for the audio, transcript and photographs. Each interview has been transcribed (available as a PDF). Each tape side produced some 10 transcript pages; full transcripts run from 30-190 pages.

As is the case in such projects, transcripts show gaps due to recording conditions and linguistic complexity, along with background noise, strong accents and lapses into native languages.

More than 15 different languages appear on the audiotapes. Footnotes and editorial insertions help identify place names, and translate German, Polish, Yiddish and other foreign expressions.

Each cassette tape was converted to mp3 digital format. Stream or download any tape side from the links in the Audio and Transcript Information section. Most mp3 files are about 15 MB (25 minutes). With a broadband connection, they will download in about 30 seconds at 64 kps.

Survivors donated more than 200 photographs available for viewing; most are post-war.

In these interviews, men and women recall Berlin during the rise of the Third Reich, Kristallnacht and other anti-Semitic violence, the Warsaw and Lodz ghettoes, and conditions at Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, and other less-famous concentration camps.

They describe the fates of their families, starting life over again in postwar Europe, and emigrating to the U.S. and Israel. They also discuss being new American immigrants and life in Wisconsin’s Jewish communities between 1945 and 1980.

The survivors lived across Europe: Poland, Greece, the Netherlands, Ukraine. Their families were middle-class, wealthy and working class; some were devoutly observant while others were secular. The youngest person interviewed was a toddler during this period, the oldest was in his 30s, while most were teens.

One American witness was a US Army captain who liberated concentration camps; the other was a United Nations administrator who helped resettle survivors.

Choose from 24 full testimonies or listen to brief excerpts.

Among the interviews:

A teenager’s Gentile friends turn against him– Fred Platner
A rabbi recalls Kristallnacht in Berlin– Rabbi Manfred Swarsensky
Rescued from death’s door at Bergen-Belsen– Magda Herzberger
A survivor’s kindergartener comes home in tears– Cyla Stundel

There are activities and lesson plans for teachers and readers may learn more about the project.

There is an excellent caveat for teachers who may plan to use this material.

We have not censored or suppressed any survivor’s recollections. Many interviews contain passages with vivid eyewitness descriptions of horrifying cruelty, which may not be suitable for younger readers and listeners.

Teachers and parents should understand that recollections of life in ghettoes and concentration camps could shock and frighten children who have never before imagined such brutality.

Hearing these anecdotes through the actual voice of the person who survived them can be very distressing, especially when the speaker becomes audibly upset.

If an oral history contains highly sensitive passages, we have noted it in the interview summary. It’s possible that oral histories without a notice contain distressing information for some listeners.

Educators of older students may find interviews with sensitive content to be particularly effective teaching tools. Most speakers were teenagers when they lived through these terrible events. Teachers of younger students should personally review audio and transcript passages before introducing them to children.

This digital collection was created through the generous support of the Helen Bader Foundation of Milwaukee and private donors.

Thanks to Sally Jacobs, the Practical Archivist, for the tip to this resource. At her day job, she helped to create this free online digital collection.

Pittsburgh: Jewish oral histories now online

A local project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in conjunction with the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) has produced 516 oral history interviews now accessible and searchable online.

The story is in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The project – Pittsburgh and Beyond: The Experience of the Jewish Community – can be viewed online here. The interviews were made on 11,000 audio cassettes over 32 years – more than 1,200 hours of recordings – and were available online on Tuesday, September 28.

The local NCJW chapter provided the recordings to the University of Pittsburgh’s library system, which digitized them and designed a searchable site.

In 1968, volunteers began interviewing the men and women who arrived from Eastern Europe 1890-1924. It expanded to include the oral histories of Pittsburgh’s Jewish residents.

“It’s one of the largest oral-history projects in the country and perhaps the largest focused on a region — and then a population within that region,” said Rush G. Miller, director of Pitt’s library system. “We haven’t found one larger.”

The interviews illustrate such community aspects as academic, business, civic, cultural, medical, political, religious, and social evolution and development in Pittsburgh, national and international events.

Search parameters include given and surnames, geographical list and other subjects and keywords. Topical headings (including local proper names) are found under a generic heading for service or type. Find individuals, hospitals, newspapers, orphanages, synagogues, television and radio stations, fashion, medical and legal specializations. The geographic index includes three categories (Pittsburgh and vicinity, US and outside the US).

Other key pages:

The project’s history includes information on two books and two documentaries. There is a 2002 guide available as a PDF.

The tapes have intentionally never been transcribed to encourage researchers the opportunity to hear the actual voices with inflections of the respondents. Rather, all interviews have been accurately abstracted by NCJW members to reflect the balance and content of each interview and to aid researchers in accessing specific information in the interviews. The inclusion of geographic, name and subject indices further enhances research access to information on the tape interviews.

Methodology and use offers more information on the updated guide which offers abstracts and indices (geographic, personal name and subject). Dates given are those provided by the respondent, and Eastern European hometown spellings were determined through “Where Once We Walked” (Avotaynu). Names of regions or provinces – when given – are in parentheses and the country of origin refers to political boundaries of the time.

A timeline of achievements was created to show the project’s development.

Visit the site to learn how to order copies of the interviews and of supplemental materials – if available.

Tracing the Tribe at Genealogy Gems

Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems Podcasts interviewed Tracing the Tribe at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree in June.

Corrected Link: Listen to the podcast here

Thanks, Lisa!

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The Angel of Ahlem

Tireless Lodz, Poland researcher Roni Seibel Liebowitz of New York has been involved for several years in the story of Vernon Tott, his role in the Ahlem Camp’s liberation and his important photos. I was privileged to work with Roni on a Jerusalem Post story about Tott and his quest to find Ahlem survivors – he eventually found 30 of them – despite his own failing health.

The late Vernon Tott (deceased 2005) of Sioux City, Iowa, was with the U.S. infantry liberating Ahlem Labor Camp in Hannover, Germany. Most male prisoners (men and boys) were from the Lodz Ghetto, a town of particular interest to Liebowitz, who handles the Lodz ShtetLinks , Lodz Area Research Group (LARG) and Belchatow ShtetLink.

The 18 images Tott took during liberation are the only ones known to exist of that event. The photos sat in a shoebox on a basement shelf until 1995, when an Ahlem survivor contacted Tott via an Army newsletter. From this chance meeting, Tott was inspired to locate and reunite as many Ahlem camp survivors as possible.

In May 2007, the documentary, “The Angel of Ahlem,” was screened at Lincoln Center. Guest speaker Dr. Henry Kissinger was a correspondent with the 84th infantry and visited Ahlem following liberation. His comments and the NPR broadcast are on the site below. A group of Ahlem survivors also attended.

National Public Radio aired an interview Tuesday morning with members of the Tott family; it is posted here. See a narrated slideshow of Ahlem survivor Ben Sieradzki’s family album, hear other survivors and view several related stories.

NPR correspondent Susan Stamberg spoke with Tott’s family and Ahlem survivors in Sioux City during the premiere week.

The Angel of Ahlem

Tireless Lodz, Poland researcher Roni Seibel Liebowitz of New York has been involved for several years in the story of Vernon Tott, his role in the Ahlem Camp’s liberation and his important photos. I was privileged to work with Roni on a Jerusalem Post story about Tott and his quest to find Ahlem survivors – he eventually found 30 of them – despite his own failing health.

The late Vernon Tott (deceased 2005) of Sioux City, Iowa, was with the U.S. infantry liberating Ahlem Labor Camp in Hannover, Germany. Most male prisoners (men and boys) were from the Lodz Ghetto, a town of particular interest to Liebowitz, who handles the Lodz ShtetLinks , Lodz Area Research Group (LARG) and Belchatow ShtetLink.

The 18 images Tott took during liberation are the only ones known to exist of that event. The photos sat in a shoebox on a basement shelf until 1995, when an Ahlem survivor contacted Tott via an Army newsletter. From this chance meeting, Tott was inspired to locate and reunite as many Ahlem camp survivors as possible.

In May 2007, the documentary, “The Angel of Ahlem,” was screened at Lincoln Center. Guest speaker Dr. Henry Kissinger was a correspondent with the 84th infantry and visited Ahlem following liberation. His comments and the NPR broadcast are on the site below. A group of Ahlem survivors also attended.

National Public Radio aired an interview Tuesday morning with members of the Tott family; it is posted here. See a narrated slideshow of Ahlem survivor Ben Sieradzki’s family album, hear other survivors and view several related stories.

NPR correspondent Susan Stamberg spoke with Tott’s family and Ahlem survivors in Sioux City during the premiere week.